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O'Dwyer stars again as Brisbane win, Gilroy reveals surgery after being bitten by spider

The pair have been among the brightest stars of the 2022 AFLW’s 14-strong Irish contingent.

ORLA O’DWYER STARRED once again as Brisbane Lions got their Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] Premiership defence back on track with an emphatic 35-point win over Carlton.

The Tipperary multi-sport ace was amongst Brisbane’s best on the ground as the reigning champions kick-started their 2022 campaign; Covid issues and a subsequent 16-day layoff having followed their Round One loss to Adelaide Crows.

aflw-grand-final Orla O'Dwyer in action for Brisbane Lions in last year's Grand Final. Source: AAP/PA Images

The Lions were irresistable in the 9.9 (63) to 4.4 (28) triumph at Metricon Stadium yesterday, their sheer hunger and squad depth shining through in the statement victory.

O’Dwyer, playing as a winger, was central to everything good the Lions did, making herself known at every contest and playing a key role in their strong running game.

As the match report reads, the inter-county dual star ”provided plenty of drive through the middle of the ground,” laid four big tackles inside Brisbane’s forward 50, and gathered 20 disposals in another formidable midfield display.

O’Dwyer blew up the stats sheet in Round One with her best to date, and was a definite shining light in a disappointing opening day defeat to last year’s runners-up Adelaide.

The 23-year-old opened her third season Down Under with a career-high outing, racking up 21 disposals, seven tackles and seven marks, and running out Lions’ fans’ MVP with a massive 106 fantasy points.

“Orla’s come back from her second lot of quarantine in two years, and you’d think that would impact her and it hasn’t,” Brisbane head coach Craig Starcevich said afterwards.

She’s a gifted athlete, is very determined and surrounds herself with great people. She latched onto our stronger trainers over the break and is fast becoming the benchmark for our girls which is fantastic.

“She’s always had that athletic base and is a left-footer which has probably helped in the transition., Camogie is certainly quite a physical game and Gaelic would’ve aided in developing that footy knowledge. She’s still learning the nuances of our game but she’s really building and becoming comfortable with the oval footy which is great.”

The Lions face Geelong next on Saturday in their first home match of the season, with O’Dwyer and the 13 other Irish players on the books of AFLW clubs in line to continue their respective seasons. 

Another of those is Mayo star, Aileen Gilroy, who has established herself as one of North Melbourne’s key players since joining the league in 2020, the same year as O’Dwyer.

The pair were both recognised in the coaches’ votes in Round Three; Gilroy in scintillating form as North saw off Greater Western Sydney [GWS] Giants. 

She impressed with 16 disposals, 13 kicks and three marks at Arden Street Oval, launching some pin-point long-range kicks upfield.

2017 All-Star midfielder Gilroy was this week’s guest on Virgin Media Sport’s AFLW highlights show, and she detailed her turbulent pre-season as she reflected on this campaign so far with presenter Will Dalton and former Melbourne and current Dublin player Niamh McEvoy.

“It’s been brilliant,” Gilroy said. “Coming out here to Australia is a great opportunity for any young player, it’s been really, really good. I got my boyfriend across as well, which I was very grateful for. That made life a little bit easier.

I had interruptions in my pre-season. I actually got bit by a spider, a white-tail, and ended up getting an operation. That put me out of training for a little while, but I got over it.

“At Christmas, I actually got Covid as well so I was heading into Round One knowing I had just come off the back of Covid and that had an affect on me as well. But anyways, it doesn’t matter, I got over that.

“The lifestyle always is so good out here in Australia. It’s obviously the middle of the summer at the minute, and playing there on Sunday was 33/34 degrees and you felt every bit of it! But I definitely wouldn’t change anything for the world.”

Gilroy’s North Melbourne face Carlton on Sunday.

AFLW Round Four fixtures

*all kick-offs in Irish time

Thursday 27 January

Collingwood v Fremantle, 6.40am

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Friday 28 January

GWS Giants v Western Bulldogs, 6.10am

St Kilda v West Coast Eagles, 8.10am

Saturday 29 January

Adelaide Crows v Melbourne, 4.10am

Brisbane Lions v Geelong Cats, 6.10am

Sunday 30 January

Carlton v North Melbourne, 4.10am

Gold Coast v Richmond Tigers, 6.10am.

Irish players involved in the 2022 AFLW season

  • Orla O’Dwyer (Brisbane Lions / Tipperary)
  • Aisling McCarthy (West Coast Eagles / Tipperary)
  • Grace Kelly (West Coast Eagles / Mayo)
  • Niamh Kelly (West Coast Eagles / Mayo)
  • Aileen Gilroy (North Melbourne / Mayo)
  • Rachel Kearns (Geelong Cats / Mayo)
  • Sarah Rowe (Collingwood / Mayo)
  • Aishling Sheridan (Collingwood / Cavan)
  • Cora Staunton (GWS Giants / Mayo)
  • Bríd Stack (GWS Giants / Cork)
  • Áine Tighe (Fremantle / Leitrim)
  • Sinéad Goldrick (Melbourne / Dublin)
  • Lauren Magee (Melbourne / Dublin)
  • Ailish Considine (Clare / Adelaide Crows)

Alongside TG4′s weekend coverage on Saturday (5.15pm) and Sunday (11.15am), you can stream every game live on the AFL Women’s official app and the AFL Live app.

BTL 5

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Emma Duffy

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